Friday, December 25, 2009

LSD - An Unintentional Discovery

The unintentional discovery of d-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate-LSD-25 led to a cultural revolution – nobody today can deny that the hallucinogen uncovered by Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman in 1938 helped shape the hippy movement of the 1960s and sparked worldwide interest, having a massive impact on neuroscience research and treatment.

The actual discovery of LSD as a hallucinogen occurred when Dr Hoffman was involved in pharmaceutical research in Basel, Switzerland, hoping to produce drugs that would help ease the pain of childbirth. Having synthesized what would later become known as LSD; Hoffman catalogued the untested substance and placed it in storage, after finding nothing particularly interesting about it during the initial analysis. It wasn’t until a Friday afternoon in April 1943 when Hoffman discovered the true properties of the compound, inadvertently absorbing a healthy dose of it when handling the chemical at work without wearing gloves. On his bicycle ride back home he observed “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors”.

Criminalized throughout the USA in 1966 (and most others following suit soon after), further research into LSD was (and still is) constantly hampered by its illegal status. Early researcher Dr Richard Alpert claimed to have administered LSD to 200 test subjects by 1961, and reported that 85% of his test subjects said that the experience was the “most educational” of their lives.

Here are a few other accidental innovations that deserve at least a mention: saccharin (artificial sweetener), Scotchguard (aka Sellotape),
, the band-aid, the frisbee, the sandwich, Silly Putty, x-rays, vulcanized rubber, and safety glass.

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